Gardening an activity for life

Welcome to “Gardening for Life”, a monthly column dedicated to gardeners and gardening. The OSU Master Gardener Volunteers have been persuaded to lay down their trowels and pick up a pen to share their gardening passion and expertise. My pursuit is vegetable gardening though flower gardening is also rewarding. Beauty is to the spirit as food is to the body and both are necessities of life.

This first column will be dedicated to explaining ‘Gardening for Life’ and to convey the passion we Master Gardeners have for gardening. The best way to explain is to list some of the many benefits of gardening. ‘Gardening for Life’ is a life-long passion and it means gardening as a way to enrich your life.

As a life-long passion, gardening usually starts with childhood gardening at a parent’s side or, as often as not, helping (possibly reluctantly) in a family garden to supplement a family’s food supply. Childhood gardening progresses to teaching your own youngsters to garden; and what a joy it is to see the wonders of nature blooming in the mind of a child! It is such a joy that many of us gardeners seek out ways to revisit it by “working” with grandchildren or with school children as volunteers. So, ‘Gardening for Life’ starts as a child and continues as long as you can pick up a trowel or pull a weed.

Gardening to enrich your life˘ In my experience, gardening has physical, mental and, spiritual benefits. Let’s look at one at a time. The physical benefits include exercise, good nutrition and getting out into fresh air and sunlight. No matter how carefully you prepare your garden there will always be some physical activity (manual labor!) involved plus seeing the ‘fruits’ of your labors.

Let’s eat more veggies˘ I really, really like garden fresh vegetables! Sweet corn steamed or roasted within minutes of being picked from the stalk is an unforgettable experience for even the most jaded palate. If you have never eaten steamed new potatoes in their jackets the day they were dug from the earth you should add it to your bucket list. Finally, a salad developed around what is ready to harvest as you walk through your garden is a never ending source of wonder and delight. There have been many times at our house during summer and fall that the decision about what to have for supper is made while strolling through the garden in the afternoon to see what’s available.

Does the constant intrusion of electronic gadgets into your life or the blah, blah, blah of TV talking heads or radios or commercials start to wear on you or just make you want to scream? Turn it all off and walk through your garden. It’s an oasis of peaceful harmony with the natural world. A daily dose of this will provide more mental health benefit than almost anything else I can think of. A vacation in some remote luxury or exotic location is great but can it sustain you for a whole year? The garden is just outside your door ready to calm and nourish whenever it is needed.

Finally, what is the spiritual benefit of gardening? This familiar verse pretty well sums it up:

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,

The song of the birds for mirth,

One is nearer to God’s Heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.”

-Dorothy Frances Gurney

In closing I’d like to paraphrase the great naturalist Aldo Leopold. ‘There are some people who can live without gardening and some people who cannot. These are the thoughts and words of one who cannot.’

Happy gardening!

Bob Rothwell is a Washington County Master Gardener.